Teach for India Diaries 12: Dream dreams no one else can dream.

When was the first time you dreamed of how the future should look for you? How did you picture that life you wanted? That challenging and fulfilling job, the experiences you will indulge in, the impact you will be creating to make things around you better for everyone, and live your life embodying your principles and ideals every moment. How did you learn to dream? 

In most cases it was what we saw around us, what we were inspired by, and by interacting with the people who are doing what they had envisioned for themselves and are living their dream life every single day. I recently read about Dean Karnazes who was so tired of living a life he hated, but still lived, in order to someday do what he really liked! He left his lucrative New York Advertising job at the age of 29 to just start running! His first passion. He ran and he ran and he ran. He just kept running. And now he is one of world’s most successful ultra marathon runners who raises money for charities through his races and inspires others to overcome adversity. 

The example cited above is a choice the individual made after extreme self reflection. But can we be taught to dream big? Can we condition someone to want to do extraordinary lives? Can we set them up for success? Over the summer this question triggered me to conduct a small experiment in my classrooms. I set up a very ambitious goal and destination for my kids. Each child has to get 100% in the subjects that i am teaching- English and Social Studies, in the weekly assessments along with showing exemplar behavior and displaying excellent moral character in daily activities. It could be something as simple as helping your buddy so that he understands the directions on a map to owning up to hitting someone. At the end of six units the top six students would be taken to the Indian School of Business. At first the kids didn’t know squat about what ISB was. They were least bothered about getting a new pencil from me if they topped in the weekly exam leave alone be excited about ISB. When i showed them what the school looked like and the diverse people who studied there, they were intrigued. They asked me about why their classes had benches when we sat on the floor and why they had such a huge library when ours was a small corner in the class. I tried to teach them the difference between good to great. About how certain people, things, places, schools and ideas can be good, but there are some which are simply great. They were super excited to be part of my evil experiment. Now you should know that I am not a big fan of marks being displayed publicly to either celebrate or humiliate kids. But after the display of week1 results on chart papers outside the classroom, I saw something trigger. During lunch and break time I saw hoards of kids gathered around the displays to see who got how much. It is a human tendency to know where they stand relative to the person next to him. I cashed on the fact that my children had not yet attained Nirvana and that they still cared about worldly possessions. I heard conversations like “I am going to study harder this week to get that 100%”, “We have to get 100% otherwise didi will not take us to Hyderabad!”. Somehow it felt like I am setting them up to run the rat race that lies ahead of them in life anyway(Of course only if they choose to run it.) But I also saw something else happen; most kids now talked about studying in a college which looked as pretty as the ones that I had shown them. They had started “Dreaming”. And dreaming big! In a classroom full of kids hailing from communities where the need for daily survival surpasses the luxury of dreaming, it felt like nothing short of a miracle when I witnessed dreams dreamed that no one else was dreaming.

Having promised the kids a trip to the ISB I now had to actually talk to the school to request them to have my kids on their campus! But sometimes life sends you angels. At a talk that I recently gave at PechaKucha Nights, a global creative network, I met Sai Prasad, a fellow speaker, an ISB alumnus and an angel in disguise. When I shared my evil experiment with him, he was more than glad to show the kids around ISB personally! Thank you Sai for all the smiles you bring to peoples’ faces each day. I also promised the kids that I would show them how air crafts can fly without falling from the sky and we could fly in them. They still don’t believe me. I am waiting for July 28th and 29th when we are flying across the clouds to experience the rainbow meet the earth. Please do let me know if you are interested in making this dream come true for 6 of my kids. 

Till then think about this “Dream dreams no one else can dream!” something I read scribbled on a door, behind which lived a girl called Milann, who always dreamed dreams that no one else could dare dream. She is one of the people who give me the strength everyday to be more, give more, dream more and do more than just exist.imageimageimageimage

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